How NASA’s new laser communications mission will work in space

A “data hunger” in space is driving the launch of a new laser communications mission, a NASA official told Space.com.

The Laser Communications Relay Demonstration will launch on the United States Space Force Space Test Program 3 (STP-3) mission no earlier than Dec. 5 at 4:04 a.m. EST (0904 GMT). You can watch the rocket launch Sunday online courtesy of United Launch Alliance, which is flying the mission on an Atlas V rocket.

“This will be our first foray into understanding, what does it mean to use lasers to communicate and really connect directly to Earth and space users?” Jason Mitchell, Director of SCaN Advanced Communications & Navigation Technology Division at NASA, told Space.com in a recent video interview.

Related: Dial-up space communications system gets ‘high-speed’ upgrade

An artist’s impression of NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration mission. (Image credit: NASA)

LCRD will help NASA learn about possible effects to manage, ranging from atmospheric turbulence to cloud deflection, Mitchell noted. The timing is crucial as NASA and its international partners expand its exploration focus over the coming decades.

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